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Techiestosoftwareslaves

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JoeannaRebello,TNN|Jan18,2015,05.29AMIST
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READMORE H1BVisa | H1BViolations | CenterForInvestigativeReporting

Aninvestigationexposesthemurkyunderbelly
ofIndianH1Bvisaholders'indentured'in
America.
Here'saJanusimageforyou.Ontheoneside,
halfadozenH1Bworkersbunkeredinachoked
'guesthouse'inAmerica,anxioustobe
summonedbytheirlabourbrokertoajobthey
knowwillpaydiscriminatorywagesandmean
longhours.Whentheydogetthejob,thebroker
oftenpocketsacutandcanevensueifthe
employeequitsorswitchesjobs.

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Thenightmarishstoryofthe'indentured'Indian
techworkerinAmericahasfounditsmostrecent
AA
renderinginagraphicnovelpublishedbyThe

CuttoIndiawherehundredsofyoungmenline
upoutsidetheofficesoftheverysamelabour
brokers,readytopayoutlargesumsfortheir
Americandream.

Thenightmarishstoryofthe'indentured'Indian
techworkerinAmericahasfounditsmostrecent
renderinginagraphicnovelpublishedbyThe
CenterforInvestigativeReporting(CIR),anon
profitAmericanorganization.APulitzerPrizefinalistin2012and2013,
CIRmayjustbeintherunningagainforitsworkonthemercenary
practicesofthetech'insourcing'industry,whichthrivesontheinflow
ofhighlyskilledIndiantechworkersonH1Bvisas.

CenterforInvestigativeReporting,anonprofit
Americanorganization.

RELATED
USreportputsIndianITin
thedock
ObamainvokesIndian
AmericanscholarThomas
Kailathtomakecasefor...

CIR'sgraphicnovelhasbeenscriptedandsketchedbySiliconValley
reporterMattSmith,whoalongwithfellowjournalistGollan,spellsout
thetechstaffingfirms'damningfivepointmodusoperandi1.
CompanieslureIndianworkerstotheUSwithphantomjobs.2.
IndianAmericans'Desi
AssetsUnderUSTaxLens
Workersareoftenunpaid(brokerswithholdsalaries).3.Brokers
demandcashforvisas.4.Workersoftenfeelpressureto"spiceup,"or
falsify,theirresumes(brokersoftensuggesttheydothisinordertoget
hired).5.Bondingandpenaltiesareheapedonworkerswhoquit.They
alsowriteabouttheculpabilityofUSgovernmentdepartmentsthathavelookedpastH1B
violations.
WorkersinSiliconValley
weighinonObama's
immigrationorder

Smithandhiscolleagues,JenniferGollanandAdithyaSambamurthy,spentalargepartoftheir
yearlonginvestigationtrackingdownworkerswhowouldactuallytalktothem."Thewallof
silencefromIndianITworkerscanonlybecomparedwithattemptingtoinvestigatean

organizationunderastrictOmerta,"saysSmithonemail."EarlyonIwaswritingandcalling
peopleIfoundthroughLinkedInandNexis,anddatabasessuchasBenchfolks,chatroomssuch
asMyVisajobsandGoolti.com,andalistofindustrycontactsusedbylabourbrokers.Ultimately,it
turnedoutthatthemosteffectivewaytofindworkerswillingtotalkwastogophysicallytolocal
courthouseswithadigitalscannerinhand,seekingtofindlawsuitsinvolvingsuspectcompanies."
Fewvictimsarewillingtochallengestaffingcompaniesoremployersincourtbecausejudgments
againstIndianworkerswhohave'violated'theircontractsbyswitchingjobsorquittingbeforetime
canincurpenaltiesinexcessof$50,000,CIRdiscovered.
GobiMuthuperiasamytookthatrisk.ThesoftwareengineerfromMaduraispentthreeyearsin
courtwhenhislabourbrokersuedhimforswitchingjobs.AlthoughMuthuperiasamywonthe
case,anddidn'thavetopayhisbrokerapenny,hewasstillpoorerby$25,000inlegalcosts.
Muthuperiasamyisamongthefewwhohavefoughtback.Othersareanonymouslyoutingtheir
employers.'Clientcharged87.5/hr.Iampaid30/hr.10,000USDbondinIndia.Ihatemylife'
areamonggripespostedontheCIRsiteandarestandardfareonpeerforumslikeGoolti.com,
Nostops.organdImmigrationvoice.org.RajivDhabadkar,founderoftheadvisoryNational
OrganisationforSoftware&TechnologyProfessionals(NOSTOPS)claimsthewebsitereceives
about300400postseveryday,oftenanonymous,detailingworkrelatedhorrors."Irecommend
youngerstudentslookelsewhere,atAustraliaperhaps,"saysDhabadkar.
You'dthinkthesecautionarytaleswoulddispelH1Bqueues.Butthecapof65,000H1Bvisasfor
2015wasmetinfivedayslastyear.Indiannationalsreceivedmorethan67%ofallH1Bvisas,
andmorethan28%ofallL1visas(amorespecializedworkpermit)issuedworldwide."TheUS
MissioninIndiaissuedmorethan1,00,000H1BvisasinFY2014,morethanatanyothertimein
history,"aUSConsulateGeneralChennaispokespersonsays.
ButmediareportslikeCIR'shaveshapedthecampaignforvisareforminAmerica.While
Obama'sExecutiveOrderonimmigrationlastmonthlargelyaddressestheissueofundocumented
immigrants,italsoallowedthedocumented,highlyskilledimmigrantjobmobility,transferof
GreenCardapplicationacrossjobs,permittingsomespousestowork,revisingandexpanding
antidiscriminationprovisionsofimmigrationlawandprovidingmorecomprehensiveanti
retaliationprotections.
"It'saharshworldfortheH1B,likebondedlabour.Whilethere'sawholeindustrybuiltontelling
youhowtoscorethisvisa,noonetellsyouwhatcomesafter,"saysVikramDesai,vicepresidentof
ImmigrationVoice,anadvocacygroupsetupbyIndiantechworkerstocampaignforequalrights
forhighskilledimmigrantsintheUS."WethinkcomingtoAmericaisastepforward.Andwe're
okaywithnothavingequalrightsandnothavingourspouseswork.Weshouldlearnfromthe
LatinAmericans,whorallytogetherandcampaignfortheirrightsdespitebeingundocumented
immigrants,"saysDesai.